top of page
  • Writer's pictureFamily History Fanatics

Avoid These Genealogy Mistakes While Climbing Your Family Tree

Frustrated woman with the title avoid this genealogy mistakes

Genealogy is an imperfect hobby, no matter how hard we try. Discover seven genealogy mistakes you can easily avoid, now that you know what they are.

Every genealogist makes mistakes and the ones who say they don’t are lying. If you’re a newbie genealogist, I’m so glad you’ve found this post. May you find it helpful. Check out these additional blog posts specific for your beginning journey.

In this video, I walk you through these avoidable genealogy mistakes with examples. Check it out now:

VIDEO: Avoid these Genealogy Mistakes as a Beginning Genealogist

Watch this video on YouTube.

1. Jumping to Conclusions in Genealogy

Avoid assuming a record hint for a man named Chester Ward, born in 1818 in New York, now living in Michigan, is your Chester Ward.

Dig deeper into the identity of your target ancestor by looking at:

  1. Spouses names

  2. Parent’s names

  3. Children’s names

  4. More specific places of origin

  5. Occupations

When deciding if a record documents your ancestor, be sure you understand the differences between same-named individuals.

2. Failing to Read the Entire Genealogy Record

Genealogy records many have clues that researchers have ignored for decades. Don’t be that inexperienced investigator.

  1. Extract all the facts, no matter how small.

  2. ‘Turn’ a page over

  3. Look at the page before an entry begins, and on the page after.

3. Ignoring Siblings

Perhaps the genealogy mistake should be number one. Too often family historians fail to research the siblings of their ancestors.

By so doing, you are limiting your view of your ancestor’s family unit. You don’t descend from that many have ‘one-child’ family trees. Keep your family in context.

Additionally, researching the siblings may help you crack through the proverbial genealogy brick wall you’ve spent generations trying to bust.

↪️ Are you new to genealogy? Grab your copy of this FREE Beginner Guide:

laptop and writing notes with title Free Guide: 5 Steps for Successfully Starting in Family History

4. Improperly Recording Unknown Maiden Names

Finding females is a challenging genealogy research topic, especially when they assumed their husband’s name at marriage. Properly recording unknown maiden names is essential in modern genealogy.

Follow these tips when recording maiden names.

  1. MNU is not a surname. Stop using the abbreviation for married name unknown in the surname field. Use a tag or make a note.

  2. UNK is also not a surname. Stop using the abbreviation for married name unknown in the surname field. Use a tag or make a note.

  3. NMI is not a middle name. Stop using the abbreviation for the no middle initial.

  4. Leave the last name blank, rather than incorporate the married name

We have two videos about UNK and MNU that you should watch for further insights into this topic.

5. Having Multiple Trees of the Same People

It’s okay to have two trees that one ancestor appears in -- an in-progress private research tree and a public researched tree.

Otherwise, don’t make the genealogy mistake of having multiple versions of your family tree on MyHeritage, Ancestry, and FindMyPast.

Delete old versions of your online and genealogy software program family tree.

6. Not Researching All of Your Lines:

Too often genealogists make the mistake of researching only their direct paternal line or their mother’s paternal line only.

Look at a fan chart.

Genealogy Fan Chart

You have so many more ancestors to explore, especially in the context of their community or when a research trail runs dry.

7. Thinking the Spelling of Surnames is Always Consistent

I have worked with family historians that are still fighting the Brown vs Browne debate. It goes, if you don’t have an ‘e’ at the end of Brown, we’re not related.

So many other families have similar debates.

Stop having these debates because spelling was not historically consistent.

How many variations do know of for the name Lewis?

  • Lewis

  • Louis

  • Lew

  • Lou

Different record creators spelled names the way they thought they should be recorded. Often the recorder misunderstood accents or pronunciation.

Other challenges in spelling result from translations from one language to another or the lack of literacy in a population.

Uniformity and consistency in spelling is a modern practice as societies required an individual to fill out government and transactional documents.

Continue Learning About Genealogy Mistakes to Avoid

To continue learning about genealogy mistakes to avoid, check out these blog posts and videos:

Note: To leave a comment, you will be asked to sign in with your Facebook or Google Account. This action will help reduce spam comments on our site. I hope you'll understand.

bottom of page